The possible construction of a cellphone tower in Copper Ridge is getting mixed reception from neighbourhood residents.
Residents appeared before Whitehorse City Council again Monday night to express their opposition to the 28.5-metre tower. They had come to council last week with concerns that radiation from the tower might cause negative health effects, including cancer, and that the tower would be an eyesore and cause property values to drop. Its proposed location is in a park near Copper Ridge Place, next to an area the Yukon government has identified as a site for a future school. A lease to let Bell Mobility Inc. use this land for 10 years came before council for first and second reading on Monday.
“The issue of esthetics cannot be mitigated,” resident Tracey Twa told councillors, expressing her concerns for the second week in a row.
“The truth is, no one knows the long-term health effects of constant low levels of this type of radiation exposure and it may take decades before we have answers,” said Twa. She remains opposed to the tower, calling cellphone towers in general “visual pollution.”
Most of the residents she’s spoken to don’t want the tower, she said. She’s started an online petition opposing the construction. No cellphone towers should be built near homes, she told council.
As of Wednesday morning, her petition had over 40 signatures, although some were anonymous, had duplicate names or had several signatures from the same address. Many residents oppose the tower because it would damage a park. Some posts threaten legal action if the tower is built at the site.
But this desire to block the construction is misguided, others say.
“It’s not fair to use (health concerns) as an excuse for what your real problem is, which is: I don’t like the way it looks,” Copper Ridge resident and former city councillor Jeanine Myhre told council on Monday.
“It’s basically fearmongering,” her husband Jason Hoover said.
Science just doesn’t back up claims that living near a cellphone tower leads to an increased risk of cancer, he said. A study by the International Agency on Research for Cancer reported a small link between people who use cellphones a lot and people who developed brain tumours, he said.
The radiation from cellphone towers cannot change a person’s DNA, Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s medical officer of health said in an interview with the News last week. People are exposed to greater radiation by holding a cellphone up to their ear than they are by living near a cellphone tower, he said.
These health concerns are “really just bullshit,” said Hoover. Some of the people who oppose the tower may smoke – and that can lead to cancer, he said.
And even though people know exposure to the sun can cause cancer, they still go outside, said Hoover.
“If humans weren’t able to deal with it (exposure to the sun) physically, we would all be dead. We would go outside, we would vaporize. Or we would constantly get cancer,” he said.
Brock Enderton, a representative from Bell, was in Whitehorse this week to listen to citizens’ concerns. The amount of radiation emitted by cellphone towers is well below the amount allowed by national health standards, he said.
Legally, the company only has to consult with people who live in an area that is three times the height of the tower, said Enderton. No one lives within 85.5 metres of the proposed tower, he said.
“We do believe that the site that we’ve selected is a responsible one,” Enderton told council.
Mobile phone usage in Whitehorse has increased five-fold over the last year-and-a-half, he said. This is largely because people are using these phones more at home after they’re done work than they did before, he said. If this site isn’t approved, the company may have to consider looking at installing two towers. One of the proposed sites is near NorthwesTel’s central office, and that’s much closer to residents, he said.
Bell will be hosting a community meeting at Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre at 7 p.m. on July 31 to address residents’ concerns.
The lease unanimously passed first reading Monday night. Coun. John Streicker voted against it at second reading. He moved to have second reading postponed until after the public meeting. The lease goes for third and final reading on Aug. 12.
Bell has similar leases with the city for towers in Riverdale and Porter Creek. Also on Monday night, city council unanimously approved Bell’s installation of a tower on private property on MacDonald Road.
Coun. Mike Gladish was absent from Monday’s meeting.
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